Animal Rights: Ending the Human Use and Exploitation of Animals

what are animal rights

Animal rights have been the subject of much debate, especially among animal rights groups who fight for animal welfare. Unfortunately, animal cruelty still runs rampant throughout much of the world.

Some people simply don’t believe in animal rights, and governments have failed to produce legislation that protects all animals from human predation.

Additionally, some industries have systematically commoditized animals for various purposes, treating them as things rather than as sentient beings. Even our beloved cats, dogs, and other pets are legally considered property.

It’s true that some animal rights legislation has passed in the United States and elsewhere. For instance, law enforcement can bring charges against a person for neglecting or abusing an animal. However, the animal his or herself doesn’t have any legal rights.

An abused dog can’t sue his tormenter for pain and suffering. A person can’t do so on his behalf, either.

Furthermore, factory farming operations, animal testing facilities, and similar businesses continue to torture animals for the benefit of people.

Why does this continue? And what should animal rights look like on a global scale? Let’s dig into some of the specifics.

What Are Animal Rights?

animal rights protest
Image via Jo-Anne McArthur / WeAnimals

Animal rights is an idea and a movement that asserts that animals should be able to live free of human interference and that they should never be exploited for human gain. Animals do have some rights, but not nearly enough.

Naysayers argue that nonhuman animals lack language and complex cognitive abilities, which somehow makes them lesser-than. However, animals have the ability to experience emotions like pain, fear, happiness, connection with others, and despair.

When a sentient being can suffer at the hands of humans, we have the obligation to protect them from our own brethren. Animals have value beyond what they’re worth by the pound, and stripping them of that value creates a culture in which animals are viewed as food, fur, or servants.

The animal rights movement seeks to eliminate this view of animals and to give animals rights beyond what they currently enjoy. It’s not about making nonhuman animals equal to humans, but about taking their inherent value into consideration when making decisions.

For instance, you could have a Big Mac for dinner. Alternatively, you could eat a garden salad full of flavorful fruits and vegetables. That’s a choice.

So is starting a business that harvests animals like we would a field of corn. You could, alternatively, start a business that doesn’t infringe on animal rights.

Animal Rights Facts That Might Shock You

Did you know that animals on factory farms live in such tight conditions that they typically can’t even turn around? They’re forced to live out their lives in tiny cages or crammed in amongst other animals of their kind with no room to move.

In hatcheries, which are designed to produce as many chicks as possible, male chicks are often ground up (technical term: macerated) alive because they have no value to the farmers. Others are scalded to death.

Dog fighting, a heinous blood sport, still exists today. In fact, the ASPCA estimates that tens of thousands of dogfights take place every year in the U.S. alone. Many of those fights are the professional variety, which means that hundreds of thousands of dollars could change hands for entrance fees and wagers.

You might also not know that animal testing has become unnecessary. We now have alternative methods, such as in vitro cultures, that provide more accurate results than animal testing because the tests are carried out on human tissue.

Yet thousands of animals suffer in laboratories around the world, suffering from human diseases, covered in dermatitis from product exposure, and other atrocities. These animals never receive names, receive affection, or experience their natural habitats.

Do Animals Have Legal Rights?

As mentioned above, animals do have some legal rights. However, don’t confuse legal rights with animal rights because they’re not the same thing.

Animals are considered property. If you steal a dog from your neighbor, it’s no different from stealing his television or car. If someone’s dog attacks your dog, you can sue for the vet bills you incurred as a result of the injuries, but not for the pain and misery your poor pet experienced from the attack.

Most of the legal rights given to animals involve humans, such as in the case of the pet attacked by someone else’s pet. Other laws prohibit abusing or neglecting animals, but even those are murky and uneven.